NYC lawmakers, allies sue to block city from sheltering migrants at Brooklyn airfield

Dozens of lawmakers and supportive constituents filed a lawsuit early Tuesday seeking to block Mayor Adams’ administration from housing as many as 2,000 migrants at Floyd Bennett Field, a mostly defunct airfield in southern Brooklyn that would cost taxpayers $1.7 million in monthly rent.

The lawsuit, filed in Staten Island Supreme Court, is being spearheaded by Republican Councilwoman Joann Ariola of Queens, who last week urged fellow conservatives to “fully wage war” against Gov. Hochul and President Biden over their handling of the migrant crisis. Ariola was joined in filing the suit around 1 a.m. Tuesday by New York Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, 12 members of the City Council and state Assembly as well as 24 Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island residents.

“To all those seeking to turn Floyd Bennett Field into a migrant base camp: We will not sit idly by and allow you to destroy our city. We will fight,” Ariola said in a statement.

Council member Joann Ariola (Photo by William Alatriste)

William Alatriste

Council member Joann Ariola

Ariola’s statement echoed Adams’ claim earlier this month that the migrant crisis is set to “destroy” New York City, a comment for which he drew waves of pushback from fellow Democrats.

Adams’ administration and the federal government signed a lease last week allowing the city to erect tent-style shelters at the southern Brooklyn airfield capable of sheltering some 2,000 migrants. A rider to the lease, which was reviewed by the Daily News, stipulates that Hochul’s administration will cover the cost of renting the site from the feds to the tune of $1,733,750 per month. Hochul’s administration will also reimburse the city for costs associated with operating the site.

Tuesday’s lawsuit, which names Adams and Gov. Hochul as defendants, alleges that erecting such shelters at Floyd Bennett would violate laws restricting nearly all forms of development inside the Gateway National Recreation Area, a federal park that encompasses the airfield and surrounding marshlands in Queens and Staten Island. A spokesman for Ariola said that law allowed his boss and the other plaintiffs to file the suit in Staten Island Supreme Court even though the airfield is in Brooklyn.

The suit also charges that the migrant shelters would violate local rules on zoning and environmental reviews. The court papers also raised concern about flooding risks at Floyd Bennett.

The Ryan Visitor Center at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.

Kathy Willens/AP

The Ryan Visitor Center at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn.

Spokespeople for Adams and Hochul did not immediately return requests for comment Tuesday morning.

One of the few Democrats who joined Ariola in filing suit was Brooklyn Assemblywoman Jaime Williams, who said the Hochul-Adams plan for Floyd Bennett “skirts around all of the protocols meant to keep this place a national park.”

“This is land set aside for public recreation, not for housing, and I am confident that our injunction will right this wrong and ensure that Floyd Bennett Field remains as it was meant to be — a park space for people to enjoy, and not an illegal shelter space,” she said.

It’s unclear how soon the city planned to start moving migrants to Floyd Bennett.

Dozens of migrants/immigrants families are seen arriving from Texas.

Luiz C. Ribeiro for NY Daily News

Dozens of migrants/immigrants families are seen arriving from Texas.

Last week’s lease signing came after Hochul negotiated for months with the federal government to use the site for sheltering migrants.

The migrant crisis has become a political flashpoint in the city, with local Republicans staging protests and hoping the issue will net them electoral gains in 2024.

Last month, a Staten Island Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of the borough’s elected GOP officials to bar the city from using the former St. John’s Villa Academy private school as a migrant shelter, but an Appellate Division judge reversed that decision within hours.

Since last spring, more than 113,000 mostly Latin American migrants have arrived in New York, and some 60,000 of them remain in the city’s shelter systems, according to data from City Hall. Adams has repeatedly said his administration is opening new emergency shelters in suboptimal locations because traditional shelters are out of room.

The mayor has also for months pleaded with President Biden to supply the city with more financial and logistical aid to tackle the ballooning crisis.

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